Author: Craig Calcaterra

Brian Cashman Getty

The Yankees intend to offer Brian Cashman a new contract


Jon Heyman reports that the Yankees intend to offer GM Brian Cashman a new contract. Why?

Yankees higher-ups are impressed with Cashman’s in-season pickups, including starterBrandon McCarthy, infielder/outfielder Martin Prado and third baseman Chase Headley, and sources say they fairly don’t blame him for the underperformance of some of their established veteran hitters . . .

All of that is true. The offseason pickups like Beltran and McCann seemed smart at the time. And it’s certainly not his fault that CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka were injured.

One wonders who the Yankees blame for the team not developing any position players of note in several years, but it apparently is not Cashman. Or, if it is, they’re willing to overlook it.

Enforcing the rules “ruined” baseball? Huh. How about that.

Strike zone

There’s an article over at The Atlantic that makes a good observation: since the introduction of Pitch f/x and its attendant camera-aided Zone Evaluation (ZE) system which tracks missed calls after each game and judges umpires by their accuracy, strikeouts have gone way up and offense has gone down. Why?

Before cameras, it turned out, umpires had been ignoring strikes around the knees. Pitches between 18 and 30 inches above the plate, which are technically in the strike zone, had been called balls for years. But the presence of cameras encouraged umpires to lower the strike zone . . . a lower strike zone invited more low pitches, more low strikes, and more strike outs. These variables on their own explain a good chunk of baseball’s offensive drought.


The conclusion, in the form of the article’s headline:


That’s funny. Because the way I read it, what allegedly “ruined” baseball here is a more accurate enforcement of its strike zone as defined.

Which really means that nothing has been “ruined” at all. Because baseball can, if it wants to, change the strike zone. It has many, many times in its history and, if it deems that offense has been reduced to unacceptable extremes, it can simply raise or shrink the zone.  But I guess a story entitled “The simple technology that improved umpiring but which led to an unintended consequence which can easily be remedied” doesn’t really grab the reader.

Personally, I want umpires to call an accurate zone. Whether that results in offense going up or down I don’t care, because that can be dealt with in many ways. But having umpires call balls balls and strikes strikes is pretty damn important. As far as that goes, Pitch f/x and Zone Evaluation have helped baseball, not ruined it.


Anthony Bosch to plead guilty next month

bosch headshot

You’ll recall that Anthony Bosch was arrested and charged with conspiracy to distribute steroids last month.The Daily News reports that he’ll plead guilty next month, but that we may not know his sentence for a while:

Bosch was charged with conspiracy to distribute testosterone, and faces up to 10 years in prison, although his sentence could be drastically reduced as a result of his cooperation with investigators. Lewis said prosecutors will not make a sentencing recommendation until the cases against the other defendants are wrapped up, a process that could take several years.


Multiple other parties were arrested. Some have pleaded not guilty so, yes, it’s going to be a while. I presume Bosch will be a witness in their cases. Which, again, seems rather nuts to me. By all accounts he was the top of this distribution chain yet, once again, he’s going to be the guy getting the light treatment compared to the smaller fish. Drug users, like A-Rod. Distributors down the line from him, like sports trainers and coaches who gave athletes his wares.

Not a bad result if you’re a drug dealer who gets arrested.

Are sports leagues listening to fans too much?

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 11.40.54 AM


Jorge Arangure of Vice Sports has a thought-provoking piece up today. It’s about how, in many ways, sports leagues are abdicating their rule-making authority to the fans and observers who complain the loudest:

Never before has the average sports fan had so much power. An online mandate can force change. And the leagues are willing to listen, not because it will necessarily improve the game, but because ignoring the loudest sector of the public imperils the bottom line—the money, it’s about the money. The competition for entertainment has become so fierce that the leagues will cater to their audiences’ desires, no matter the consequences.

Arangure argues that this has played out in baseball, where calls from fans and the media — mostly online, which serves to amplify the complaints of a relatively small number of people — to speed up the game and institute instant replay have served to set the league’s agenda. In football, outcry over the NFL’s disparate punishments for various offenses by players has clearly made the the league change its policies as well. Arangure worries that “Leagues are creating a dangerous precedent in allowing the public to dictate rules and policy.”

I agree that leagues acting in reactionary ways, as the NFL seems to have done regarding player discipline, is a bad move. The voice of the public had a lot of good points about how the NFL went too soft on Ray Rice and too hard on Josh Gordon, but Roger Goodell’s unilateral changing of policies regarding domestic violence was clearly a P.R. move. One which, because he didn’t work with the NFLPA, may lead to some unintended consequences and/or some harder negotiations later, no matter how well-intentioned the changes were. You would hope that some sort of vision, as opposed to the mere avoidance of bad press motivates a league’s decision making.

But I don’t think baseball has done this. At least not to any extreme degree. Yes, it instituted instant replay after fan complaints about blown calls started to get louder, but it’s not like that complaint was some random and superfluous one. The technology existed to put a system in place and getting the calls right is an absolutely good thing. If anything, they should’ve done it sooner and, if anything, they should have listened to the fans even more closely than they did. No one, after all, was clamoring for a manager-challenge system. That’s what we got, though. And not because baseball fell over itself to cater to fans. It took them YEARS to get there.

Same goes for the issue which leads off Arangure’s article: the growing chorus of voices asking baseball to speed up the pace of play. It’s been placed on the agenda in large part because it has become an increasingly common complaint among the loud hordes he identifies. But are they wrong? I’m not sure it matters where the suggestions come from as long as they are good suggestions. If anything, Major League Baseball spent far too long ignoring fans’ wishes. I’m not going to complain now that they seem to be listening to them more. Especially if fan sentiment works to curb Major League Baseball’s strange tendency to institute strange and gimmicky solutions when left to its own devices.

Arangure closes with this:

The bigger argument now is whether sports leagues have become part of an on-demand lifestyle where we can pick and choose what we like and then demand changes to the things we don’t like. There seems to be little consideration paid to whether something is good for the given sport past the moment’s rage fueling the cries.

Are leagues yielding to rage-fueled cries? Perhaps. But after a century or so of sports’ leagues acting solely in their own self-interest, I’m not gonna get too worked up about them finally listening to their customers for a little while.